Coastal drainage management


A coastal floodplain is the low-lying, generally flat land surrounding an estuary. In their natural state, coastal floodplains flood during high tides or after heavy rainfall. Many of these areas have been artificially drained and floodgates installed to keep out high tides. This has allowed these areas to be used for many purposes, including urban development and agriculture.

The water drained artificially from coastal floodplains can cause water pollution under certain conditions. This can have a negative impact on the health and biodiversity of the estuary as well as the social and economic benefits of the area, such as fishing and tourism.

The current rules for management, including maintenance, of agricultural drainage structures and activities are complex. This project aims to:

  • improve the framework for managing agricultural drainage activities
  • improve water quality and the health of coastal floodplains and estuaries
  • simplify the approvals process to support viable primary industries.

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Multiple State agencies are working together to understand the issues and identify options to:

  1. reduce complexity, time and costs associated with the approval requirements for agricultural drainage structures  and activities on NSW coastal floodplain.
  2. improve the environmental outcomes from these activities, particularly water quality.

In September 2020 these agencies started engaging with key stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the issues and options for achieving these outcomes. This stakeholder engagement will continue until early to mid-2021.


The project is being undertaken to apply to all coastal floodplains across NSW.

Lead agency

Department of Primary Industries - Water (DPI-W)


  • Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries
  • Other state agencies with an approval role for these areas
  • Local government
  • Local landholders and industries who live on, or earn income from these floodplain areas
  • Other key stakeholders as required.


To find out more information about the project in general, please contact:

Jan Gill, Principal Policy Officer, DPIE Water

P 02 6650 3148


Page last updated/reviewed: 27 Oct 2020